Bold and sometimes overly snuggly, excited and loud, but all heart – Winnie has changed my life. I’m sure all mothers feel that way from time to time, but I know it for a fact. As surely as I know that my husband has helped to reshape some part of me before I knew it was happening, so too has my six year old daughter. Love can be that way – blissful like a drug and far more reality altering.
Working on a romance has me thinking a lot about the nature of love and the aspects of it that matter most in a story (and in our everyday lives.) So I decided to sit down and make a list of some of the things I’ve learned about love… not from my husband (whom you might expect has taught me something?), but from the innocence of my daughter and her view on her parent’s relationship.
- We all Screw Up. Apologize. Accept Apologizes & Move On. – “It’s okay Mom. I mess up too.” It never stops amazing me how quickly children recover from disappointment or from anything that seems to go wrong. My daughter is no exception. However, she really and truly believes in the power of telling someone you’re sorry and meaning it. “Sorry” is a magic word just like please and thank you. Sorry should heal all hurts, if the person saying it REALLY means it. And, if we can all say that when we’ve done wrong well, in her eyes, there’s nothing which can’t be fixed. Especially if the person saying sorry loves you. This lesson is a tough one to always remember, but it can be the #1 thing (in my humble opinion) to save a relationship or marriage if said at the right moment and with sincerity. It’s okay to make mistakes… just don’t forget that next step.
- Time is the Most Valuable Gift You Can Give. – “Lord Jesus, we pray that tomorrow will be the best day ever and we all have fun together, Amen.” My daughter says those words nightly. Her own addendum to our nighttime prayer. While she prays for Disney World trips and a little sister like many kids her age, only this one gets mentioned without fail. Winnie knows that of all the things I can give her tomorrow, it’s only being together which will make it ‘the best day ever.’ Spending time with your loved one, even if it’s just on the couch watching TV silently, can mean the world to them.
- Communicate Your Emotions – Oh I’m not always her favorite person and when she’s upset with me, these days at least, I sometimes see the sassy teen I once was growing behind her baby blues. However, she still resorts to something she’s been saying since age 3 or 4… “Mom, you hurt my heart!” I’m not always in the wrong when this saying comes out, but I have been known to be and when I am this phrase stops me dead. I love her dearly and that means I really care about how she’s feeling… even when I’m mad and not thinking straight. The same holds true for those we have other relationships with (or at least it should be.)
- Don’t Give Up – If something matters to my daughter, I mean REALLY matters
(as those who love should matter to all of us), she has a saying she repeats… her first mantra, if you will: “Winners never quit, Mom, Quitters never win.” Life and love can be a rocky ride, but the best things in life are worth giving your all on. This is the lesson of the Alpha Male in romance novels typically, but I love that it’s written on my daughter’s heart.
- Hold Hands – We walk a lot of places. We are a one car family and so years ago I didn’t bother renewing my license (a fact that never ceases to amaze people) and when we walk, we hold hands. Most children her age seem to have moved beyond this – but not Winnie. She not only likes to hold my hand when we walk, but we sometimes get this (even just walking into a store) “Dad hold mom’s hand too!” She knows this basic love language, that we’re stronger as a unit and that touch conveys much about us as a couple and as a family.
- Carry Their Love With You to Get You Through – Winnie started this thing recently where she will kiss the palm of our hands and have us kiss hers upon departing for school etc. She believes these kisses are carried with you all day to help you feel happy and connected to those loved ones you aren’t with. Adorable Note: She recently had a little boy do this with her. My husband has more grey hairs now.
- Laugh – “Knock, knock … Who’s There? … Apple… Apple Who? … Applesauce.” No matter how serious things get, Winnie always has a joke to tell. She likes to see people smile and laugh at her antics. Even if she’s in trouble she’ll have a story to share or something that will test your willpower to follow through with discipline. We can sometimes forget, in the stress of our daily lives, that the ones we love once made us laugh the hardest. They brought us the greatest joy – it’s why we are with them. Take a moment to put down the weight of the world and laugh together.
Share What You Have & Share What You Love – “You want some?” Whether it’s cookies or time with her hand held games, my daughter is likely to offer you something of what she has or what she loves. Not because someone made her, but because she knows that the joys in life we have are best shared with those we love. Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget to invite our loved ones into our lives. We share space sometimes, but not always who we are and what we love. I’m not a big video game player, for instance, and it would be easy to leave my husband to hours and hours of game play without ever speaking… but instead I rolled a character and played with him. My husband is an introvert … but this fall he came out and was part of our community theater’s production of “It’s A Wonderful Life” with my daughter and I. Sure, he’d probably would rather have been ANYWHERE but on stage… but he came to where we (my daughter and I) were because he wanted to share our loves & lives.
- Learn More About Those You Love – “Did your mom teach you that?” My husband hates the question. My daughter asks it all the time and about just about anything my husband does – from cooking to car maintence – she wants to know who taught him and the story behind it. It’s easy to forget after all these years together that there are things about my husband I still haven’t learned but every day my daughter is looking for something more about the people who she’s known her whole life. And, she doesn’t stop because when you love someone, their story matters.
- Your Marriage Matters – And perhaps my favorite, on the topic of being married: “Being married means playing with your best friend all day and never having to sleep all alone.” (CLICK TO TWEET!)
What a beautiful thing, right? Seriously, my kiddo said that at the age of four. While attending daycare she began to have this hang up on wanting to get married. She’d be reduced to tears at bedtime going on and on about how she’ll never get married and it was all I could do not to giggle. It was very serious to her, but to me it was about the cutest thing I’d ever heard.
Anyway – I decided to take her very seriously and ask her what it was she thought marriage was all about and that was what she told me. She wanted to have a best friend with whom she could always play and to never have to be alone at night time in her bed. I can remember tucking her in and spending some time thinking about that commentary and the simple beauty of it.
One of the things I can remember yearning to do with my high school sweetheart was to know what it would be like to wake up next to him… not to have sex necessarily but to know the feeling of being held all night and waking up with someone I cared that much for (and who cared for me in return.) It’s a deep seeded feeling and now I see why. It comes from something older in us than just lust… it’s a pure thing to want to be in the presence of those we love and who love us in return – as pure as a child wanting to be held by their mother and vice versa.
As a side note on the matter: On non-school nights I can often be found sleeping cuddled up to my kiddo and I’m pretty sure no matter how big she gets, if she needs her mom’s cuddles, Dad will be camping on the couch. 😉